Monthly Archives: June 2016

The ‘so what?’ question


I came across an article by Selwyn (2014) who raises the question of relevance when writing a peer-review journal article.  The ‘so-what?’ question is a hypothetical question that a reader will ask if they can’t see why your research and this paper is important.  The reader is really asking: Why should I read on? Why should I care ?

Often when working on a project and writing it into being, we become myopic about the details.  Because we think the topic is important, we assume that others will automatically understand and agree. Selwyn (2014) writes from his capacity on the editorial board of Learning, Media and Technology and he states how important the so-what? question is to journal editors.  He writes: “Just because we have published three papers on the topic of Twitter is not an indication in itself that we are happy to publish more.  What we are keen to publish are articles that add to understandings of the social complexities of digital technology and media use in education.  This is what the ‘So What? question means to us” (p. 3).  He goes on to unpack  the so-what? :

  1. What is the relevance of the article to practice in the field or any other aspect of the ‘real world’?
  2. What is the relevance of the article to policy?
  3. What is the relevance of the article to other academic research?
  4. What is the relevance of the article to theory?

You won’t need to address all these so-what? questions in one paper – you’ll probably  focus on one or two but the questions will help you to orient your paper towards your readers.

I hope this will help you think about the relevance of your research to your audience the next time you write a paper.

(Obviously, these questions can be applied to a thesis as well.)

Here’s the reference:

Selwyn, N. (2014). ‘So What?’…a question that every journal article needs to answer.  Learning, Media and Technology, 39 (1), 1-5.



Inspiration for writing


You may be feeling jaded and worn with your own academic writing.  You want to produce so much, you set high standards for yourself and somehow you feel you are never able to achieve those goals.  There are always other demands on your time and your enegry reserves are not unlimited.  If this is you, at the moment, take a break and read the following series of blogs on the materiality of writing.  In these essays, the authors talk about the wonderfulness of academic writing.  How it is at the same time tangible (because we sit in seats and physically write) and at the same time intangible (because we are creating form from ideas) and how the process is far from easy, linear or straight forward – but can be satisfying.

This is my favourite by Ninna Meier, but I also really enjoyed her other article. This blog by Katie Collins may help you understand writing in a completely different way.  Charlotte Wegener, in her blog post, writes: “Writing makes sense, not because writing produces a coherent life-story but because the act of writing makes it all overlap – feelings and thoughts, private and professional, pleasure and pain. Body and intellect. The inventing, re-inventing and combining of the real and the imagined becomes the only available tale.” Helen Butlin writes about writing as poetic resistance amidst the craziness.

Take some time today to read these blog posts and I promise you will feel revivied.

Badenhorst Humans 2